Downloadable Versus Browser Based (Could Use a Bit Of Technical Aid For Networking Code…)

The traitor game idea I’m prototyping next is technically relatively simple. There’s at maximum a few (technical) elements in the game: player characters (with few traits, location info and some attributes/state info) chatting, some items (objects to pick up and use), level scenery and then perhaps few more things.

Technically this is not so big deal that this couldn’t be done with a fully browser based system. There’s just some things that make me want to use downloadable version:

  • I have experience in promoting downloadable (I could imagine getting the game to gaming magazines, but I’d have doubt if a browser game could make it)
  • Downloadable games feel “worth more”, thus perhaps making it easier to sell the game. (Of course browser based games are big ones, but at least to me the feeling of “getting the game to my own computer” makes it somewhat more “valuable” to me compared to playing something in browser. Perhaps this is just me.)
  • It’s possible to get portals/distributors to promote the game. They are not accepting browser games in Steam you know…
  • Music and sounds. With the web technologies I’m familiar (HTML/PHP/JavaScript/AJAX/CSS) there’s practically no possibility to get proper sounds or music in the game. And I intend to keep it non-flash (since I’m the guy who is going to code the game anyway). And music and sounds play an important role in the feelings side of things.

Now there’s just some tiny technical issues that are already solved on the browser games:

  • Technically browser based game is very straightforward: just do bit of HTTP calls and throw in some AJAX and things are cool.
  • Nobody needs to download anything – sharing the fun gets so easy.

Which leads to my next point. I started imagining that I could simply “port” the browser client into a Blitzmax downloadable version (which would still do http calls). The thing here is that in downloadable game I would (possibly) want something slightly faster than inside a browser. This means that “polling game server every few seconds” is slightly silly, and I’d need a better option for this. I’m wondering if creating one big server (which would handle all games) using for example UDP be a wise move. Or whether I should do UDP server-client systems, and let each player host their own games (here’s the issues with NATs and shite which I really don’t want.)

To me the next thing is to see what kind of technical limitations the downloadable system has, and any tips on this would be most appreciated.

Ditching Game Idea #2 (and #3), Trying The Next One

After doing some prototyping for the co-op stealth game idea and Prison Escape theme/remake, I’m end the prototyping for these. Co-op stealth is somewhat promising, but it might have the danger of becoming too puzzle like without enough variation. The Escape remake seemed like a fine idea for a single player game, but multiplayer turns out to be a slightly trickier beast to tackle.

In the end it boils down to this question that one of my earlier blog posts about multiplay made me think: would I want to play a game like this?

To be honest, I liked Thief solo-play but that was ages ago. The prison escape (spectrum version) was interesting (and definitely worth a remake), but I think it would not offer much replay value.

This lead me thinking: what have been the most memorable gaming experiences in my life? A pretty immediate answer was “traitor” based games: mafia/werewolf (social/party game, not a video game) and Battlestar Galactica (board game) have been so much fun.

This lead me to the next point: how could I bring this into a video game? Would it work?

Apparently it does, since after doing some research I noticed that Kane & Lynch 2 is having a certain type of multiplayer mode where there’s undercover cop infiltrating among the robbers. Half life mod Trouble in Terrorist Town is a mod that takes the werewolf game’s gameplay and somehow converts it into a video game. While there are certain issues with the gameplay, the mod is relatively fun to play.

So. I’m now prototyping this traitor game idea of mine. In a nutshell it’s about this:

  • 3-6 players (or more)
  • 0-2 of the players is a traitor, unknown to others. Only traitors (if any) know who the other traitors are.
  • The gameplay is about cooperation: with limited resources, the players try to survive day after day until the game ends. Meanwhile… the traitors try sabotage and reduce enough resources.

I’ve yet to decide a theme, but it might be about werewolves. For example, in a 4 player game 3 players are town guards while 1 player is the werewolf. The werewolf shape shifts during nights, attacking the village citizens, terrorizing the town. In day time, the werewolf is in human form and disguises as one of the guards.

Going forward with this.

Playstation 3 Game(s) Sure Can Be Pretty Expensive

I’m calculating that the decision to get NHL ’10 costs me around 1500-2000 euros or so.

Okay, the game package itself was around 50 euros. But then Playstation (Slim edition, cables, extra sixaxis etc. ectc.) throw in 400-500 eur. And then of course I need a bigger screen (those players are so tiny when watched here “far away” from sofa), so I’m looking into purchasing 40″+ LED television (after summer). Throw in another 1000-1500 euros or so.

So… purchasing NHL ’10 ends up costing me couple of thousand of euros.

Can somebody please explain me the rationale behind this? I don’t understand how my brain justifies this, but apparently it does.

Okay… So What Am I Supposed To Do With Facebook?

Alright, so now I have some Facebook friends who can poke me. That’s of course very nice and everything… but could like somebody tell me how can game developers benefit from this platform?

Here’s some things on top of my head:

  • Creating Facebook applications and benefit from the viral aspect. Those into browser-based games can leverage the viral aspects of FB and can spam their friends. That’s “nice”.
  • As a “discussion forum” alternative. Instead of setting up big boards, one can create a game page in facebook and start creating a community around it.
  • Then… I can… uh. What else can I do?

How you use Facebook?

Here’s some more suggestions from you guys:

  • Use it to import RSS feed to my Facebook Notes (thanks Jerrac)
  • Great networking tool (according to Jake, thanks)
  • Events: you might get invited to events via Facebook. (thanks again Jake)

Me Goes Facebook (I Must Be Sheepy)

Yeh, I’m following the route of the 400 million other people. I have got my Facebook account done ages ago, but never really used it. Now started to check out what the buzz was all about.

Perhaps it makes some sense to be there: this is one of those “don’t judge things before experimenting them, judge them afterwards” experiment I’m conducting. We’ll see if Facebook is of any use.

With that said and done… Anybody want to be my friend?

P.S. I’ve yet to use the vanity url picking since evil Adrian Crook picked up *my* nick before I had the chance to rightfully claim it (damn you Adrian, damn you!!!) .

Have You Done Micropayments (In Games)

I realized that I’ve used micropayments only in one game, but could think of doing them more in games when the system is “done right”. What’s your take on micropayments? Have you purchased some stuff inside games?

I think there’s several issues to be handled, and not saying that I’m expert on micropayments (heck, like said, just done that like in one game), but here’s my list:

  • Purchasing should happen “with just one click” if possible. This means that “wallets” systems help this for sure. Whether it’s Xbox live credits or Facebook credits or PS3 wallet, but there needs to be something that saves the buyer from typing credit card details over and over again.
  • The purchased stuff should feel fair. If it feels like you are being a ripped off (“you have to buy this gadget, otherwise you suck in this game”) or if the purchase doesn’t bring some visible benefit (“your hunting skill just improved 2% – yeh we know it doesn’t matter”) the buyer doesn’t feel good.
  • Purchase should expand the game if possible. This is again me just dreaming but I feel that purchases that somehow expand the game (“okay, you just unlocked the Gnome race, sure you can do just fine by playing Human race, but Gnomes are cool with their beards and all – so why not give ‘em a go?”). If it keeps the game balanced, but adds something extra, then me thinks it’s a good candidate for a stuff that players want to purchase.
  • Right price. (That doesn’t automatically mean “cheap”)

But heck, what do I know.

Let’s hear your voice. Let me know if you’d (micro)purchased anything inside games and what elements there were aiding you to take the step. Does my list make any sense?

What “Cooperative” Means to You?

I believe that “people in same teams” doesn’t automatically make a game cooperative. For example, in Rogue Spear that I played… at some point I started to be skilled enough to try “ramboing” in one level, running to the other house and those some grenades and pretty much take all the 5-6 enemies (did that once). Meanwhile other teammates were lurking behind some walls.

Sure, there was also options to go in a team… but was it cooperative? Sometimes perhaps, sometimes perhaps not so.

Left 4 Dead is said to be a cooperative shooter, and there’s truth in this. For example, if you go solo, you end up in ground with zombie hordes all around you. Or one of the boss zombies catches you, and you need a teammate to aid you. There’s several things where a teammate is needed. It could be classified as a cooperative since you need others in order to win.

NHL ’10 drops somewhat in the same category: you control one player on the ice, and for example scoring goals is much easier when there’s other team mates making solid passes. You can try play solo, but playing in team is more effective.

Which gets me to the point of what “cooperative” – to me – means in game.

Cooperation means that two (or more) players need others to help them out or they cannot proceed any further. In Army of Two this means helping the other guy climb up, who can then help you climb up. In Battlefield one guy can drive the tank, while other guy is in using the tank machine gun. In several games, there’s unique roles where each player needs to take part and help the whole team to survive.

Being in a same team doesn’t automatically make a game cooperative. But games that support situations where people can support each other. This makes a game cooperative, and usually fun too, in my pretty humble opinion.

If you have more examples on cooperation in games, please feel free bring ‘em here.

Multiplay Or Not (Take 2)

I’m currently on an exploration venue. I started thinking of new game ideas for the next project, built first prototype (threw it away). Then started working on idea #2, which evolved into a prison escape themed stealth game.

I’m now in the edge of “multiplay or not“, a theme which I mentioned couple of months ago. The idea of Great Escape remake is a nice one, but there’s one thing that’s lacking: multiplayer. The more I tested the game, the more I thought about it, the more I was drifting away from multiplayer.

And regarding multiplayer, I’m presenting myself a question which the game concept must pass:

“Would I enjoy playing this game?”

That’s the solution. That’s the answer to “multiplay or not” question.

The answer for single-player “Great Escape” remake is “yes, like once”.

If it was a multiplayer, probably a lot more often.

And how to make it multiplayer? Well, that’s the challenge. I’m doing some circling around and listing what kind of multiplayer games I enjoy and how I could present these concepts in a multiplayer game in a fun way. I think I’ve found the art style (minimalistic) and (possibly) a theme (prison/escape seems fine for now, although if I find a different one, this might go – samurai theme is still in the back of my head).

Next step: digging deeper in the ground of “what I enjoy in multiplayer games”.